Many people often ask why not re-gauge TasRail’s network to standard gauge if you are upgrading the tracks anyway?
Whilst it is true that most of the Australian interstate railway network is indeed standard gauge (1435mm, or 4’8.5”), as is all of NSW’s country network, many lines in Victoria are still broad gauge (1600mm), almost all of Queensland is the same as Tasmania (1067mm), and so is much of Western Australia’s (WA) railways. There are lines of all three gauges (standard, broad and narrow) in
But this is really nothing to do with
Standard gauge trains are larger and heavier.
Yes this is true, but many are not. In fact in
Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy standard gauge rolling-stock as that is more common?
Not compared to the cost of changing the gauge. The existing formation would have to be widened, every sleeper changed and new rail purchased for the entire line. Every culvert and bridge would have to be replaced. It would be a new railway virtually from scratch, as the line would have to bypass the worst parts of the old formation. The cost saving in rolling-stock would be very small. You could even purchase standard gauge bogies for many of the wagons and even locomotives to save money, but TasRails fleet is so old that this is really not worth doing. There are so many narrow gauge lines worldwide, that there is still a very large market for 1067mm gauge locomotives and wagons. New 1067mm gauge locomotives are still being built in
TasRail is in fact about to place an order for new locomotives (finally!).
Could you add a third rail and thus ensure heritage trains can keep running?
Yes you could –but TasRail would have no interest in maintaining two gauges solely for tourist trains that provided them with little revenue. Converting to standard gauge would remove the possibility of heritage trains using the mainline. On a cost basis alone this would not happen.
Can’t you go faster on standard gauge?
Yes you can –the world record is 574km/h on standard gauge (the French Alsthom TGV). However the fastest train in
There is no technical reason why you could not have a faster train on narrow gauge.
However given that it is only 200km between Hobart and Launceston, there is no argument for even a 300km/h train for
Couldn’t you carry more freight?
The cost of upgrading TasRail’s tracks is far cheaper than changing the gauge. The freight demand does not warrant the cost. Even if TasRail carried 90% of the overall freight task in
TasRail’s axleload is currently relatively low –however as the track is upgraded heavier trains will be possible, without needing to change to standard gauge.
Finally and crucially, no one in the rail industry is arguing for a change in gauge.
Once TasRail completes the upgrade of the tracks, the biggest issue is the tight corners and steep grades in certain sections. The cost of the deviations for these sections will be significant –but the time saved and efficiencies gained will also be significant. Once that happens, it will be possible for a fast passenger train service to compete successfully with road.
Why don’t they carry logs from forestry?
Unfortunately for TasRail they no longer have the capacity to carry logs. Most of the log wagons have already been scrapped as they were too old. Many of the forestry areas are nowhere near a railway line. Two of the lines are no longer in use (
Why don’t they have more trains instead of heavy trucks?
The railways are stuck competing with a 20th century highway whilst using a 19th century railway that was built on the cheap. Because of this, truck companies can get freight around the state much faster than the railways. Unfortunately governments have favoured road transport for several decades, resulting in significant spending on roads and very little by comparison for railways, especially in
Rail also has to pay its way, whereas trucks to not have to pay anywhere near as much to use the roads. Despite this the trucking industry still struggles to make its services recover their costs, with owner-operator truck drivers in particular, frequently struggling despite working unbelievably long and dangerous hours to make ends meet.